THE WORLD: While on a vacation, are you in a habit of visiting places of death or disaster? Sounds like a gruesome addition to your travel itinerary. Right? Not many travelers do that. But if you do, then you are indulging in what is called Dark Tourism. By visiting a site such as the graveyards, prisons of Andaman in India, or Alcatraz in the USA, or the 9/11Memorial in New York City, or any haunted house or fort, you are engaging in dark tourism. Well, there’s nothing to be worried about. Dark tourism can be beneficial for you and the communities nearby.
Dark Tourism is not necessarily a new travel trend; lots of tourist attractions have been created around various sites of inhuman acts where a traveler can indulge in tours and explorations. It can be a deeply moving and emotional experience. On the same hand, getting an insight into what might have happened might make you uneasy.
The intent of visiting a dark tourism site
The intent of visiting a dark tourism destination is hopefully a desire to pay respects to the dead and to learn from what happened there. By avoiding these signposts of past wrongs, we can hopefully prevent them from being repeated.
“We should be visiting these sites,” says travel writer Rakesh Kumar from Delhi. It can remind us of the events that led to the calamity, and how to prevent that from happening again. After all, we have to understand the past in order to find a solution.
Benefits of dark tourism
Dark tourism is one of the best ways to help communities that have been devastated to earn some money and get back on their feet. The best examples of creating a dark tourism site are the killing fields of Cambodia where you can see skeletons from violence. You can watch human skulls and bones of victims in the Khmer Rouge regime on display. A few of these human remains are enshrined at the Choeung Ek Genocidal Center in Phnom Penh for anthropologists to study them in an effort to correlate historical records with skeletal evidence of violence.
There are benefits for travelers, too. Visiting the sites of atrocities gives us more of an understanding than reading about it in a book ever could, and it makes history more real.
Evils of dark tourism
There are a lot of negative aspects of dark tourism too. Wanting to make some quick money, people at tourism sites create scrupulous sites. Plenty of such examples can be listed by seasoned travelers, for example, a grave near the hillside resort where you are staying. The resort owners will say that it is the grave of the founder of the resort and many other stories.
Ethics of dark tourism
Dark tourism isn’t for everyone, so make sure you are comfortable with where you are going. It’s better to stay away from places where you can get upset or be challenged. But, if you’re are one of those curious folks, who love to stretch the boundaries, and is of exploratory nature, then nothing can be as fulfilling as dark tourism.
The only thing to be mindful of is that you are visiting a site where unwanted events, like mass killings, natural accidents, etc. have taken place. If you are taking photos, do so if it’s appropriate, and photograph people only if you have asked permission first.